Washington, D.C. – The House Subcommittee on Federal Lands convened today to review forestry legislation introduced by Alaska Congressman Don Young – H.R. 3650, the State National Forest Management Act. The bill represents a longstanding effort to reform the federal government’s broken system of forestry management in a manner that empowers local communities, builds resilient forests and streamlines burdensome management practices.
Congressman Young testifying before the Subcommittee on Federal Lands on H.R. 3650 (click here to watch).
“What should be a straightforward and balanced process – given the size of the Tongass – the Federal Government has time and time again failed,” Congressman Don Young testified before the Subcommittee. “In Alaska, we have a proven record of success in managing millions of acres of state parks and forests. H.R. 3650 will give states an opportunity to show they are in fact the best stewards of our lands. My bill works to address the major failures of our federal land management agencies, while giving our state’s an opportunity to do better. This proposal works to end the constant fighting between our forestry communities and the federal government by allowing us to resolve our differences at home.”
H.R. 3650, introduced on September 29, 2015, would authorize states to select and acquire certain National Forest system lands, up to 2 million acres, to be managed and operated by the state for timber production and other purposes under the law.
- Portions of land conveyed to a state shall be administered and managed primarily for timber production.
- In terms of consideration, states would be given the option to buy the acres for fair market value, exchange lands, forego pending statehood selections, or any combination – determined through the passage of state law.
The case for change in Alaska, as described by Congressman Young:
- The Tongass is 17 million acres, but through a series of Congressional withdrawals, Wilderness designations and administrative policy changes, the suited timber base available for management has declined to a mere 672 thousand acres – or 4%.
- The State of Alaska manages only a tiny fraction of forest land in Southeast, about 50 thousand acres in the Southeast State Forest.
- The Tongass National Forest has sold only about 12% of its 267 million board feet annual allowable cut. The State has sold about 65% of the 12.1 million board feet annual allowable cut.
- A state timber sale takes about 18 months to plan and offer, as opposed to 5 years for the USFS, largely due to NEPA.
- USDA estimates that over 90 statues govern management of the Forest Service, with conflicting mandates that expose agencies to litigation.
Public testimony was offered by Alaskan Bryce Dahlstrom, Timber Committee Chairman of the Southeast Conference and President of Viking Lumber, in strong support of H.R. 3650. Highlights from Mr. Dahlstrom’s testimony can be found below (full written testimony can be found here):
Bryce Dahlstrom Testifying in Support of H.R. 3650, the State National Forest Management Act (click here to watch)
- “Over the last 15 years the recorded timber cut on the Tongass has dropped to levels lower than that of the early 1900’s. With endless litigation from environmental groups and crippling federal policies, the Forest Service has been unable and unwilling to provide a reliable and sufficient supply of economical timber sales.”
- “In the past 35 years, two pulp mills, five large sawmills, and many smaller mills have been forced to shut down because of insufficient supply from the Tongass. An estimated 5,000 family-wage jobs have been lost in Southeast Alaska.”
- “The State of Alaska has the ability to plan and offer a timber sale in about 18 months, whereas the USFS process takes about 5-years because of NEPA and other impediments. The State of Alaska manages timber lands under the very well respected State Resource and Forest Practices Act.”
- “The Tongass Land Management Plan, through which the USFS manages lands, is cumbersome and exposes federal agencies to inevitable litigation.”
- “Establishing a 2 million acre State Forest selected from the Tongass National Forest is the only solution to promote healthy communities and create a sustainable timber industry in Southeast Alaska.”